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Using Compost To Remediate Poor Soils and Improve Your Turfgrass Quality

June 2021

 Applying compost to our turf is a practice that is often underutilized when dealing with poor or marginal soils. Most of the turfgrass problems I encounter are usually soil related issues.  Attempting to grow grass in poor soils can lead to a thin stand of turf, nutrient deficiencies, weed encroachment, higher pest pressures, and an overall decline in turfgrass quality.

I highly recommend applying compost as a soil amendment to improve not only the physical but the chemical properties of soil as well. Compost, as it is being decomposed by microbes, is also a source of slow-release nutrients for the plant. Luckily, there are several companies in Delaware that produce high quality compost. Ideally, before seed or sod establishment, we would want to incorporate compost into the top few inches of the existing soil beforehand.

If dealing with an existing stand of turf, application of compost can be achieved by topdressing.  Till 0.5 - 2.0 inches of compost into the soil prior to turf establishment. If topdressing an existing stand, 0.125 - 0.25 inches is the ideal depth. After topdressing, work compost down into the turf canopy with a rake or drag.  This method will also help with surface smoothness.  As far as timing goes, compost depends on soil microbes for decomposition, so warmer times of the year are recommended.  AJohn Emersonpril to early June is the window for cool season grasses, and June through August is the window for our warm season grasses. 

If you have any other questions feel free to reach out to me anytime.

 by John Emerson,  Turfgrass Nutrient Management Planning Extension Agent at University of Delaware


1. Turfgrass before
2. Turfgrass after compost application
3. Tools to work in compost
4. Penny for scale. 
5. Compost at various stages is available in Delaware.